Feb. 25, 2006
RIVERSIDE, Calif. - After struggling in away games for most of 2005-06, the UC Santa Barbara women's basketball team lost its final road contest of the regular season on Saturday, a 48-45 decision at UC Riverside in the Student Recreation Center.
With the loss, the Gauchos moved back into second place in the Big West standings at 8-4 - one-half game behind Long Beach State (9-4) - and also fell to 13-12 overall. Meanwhile the Highlanders defeated UCSB for the first time in 10 games since its transition to Division I in 2001-02, and improved to 11-14 while finishing league play at 7-7.
Following a cold-shooting first half for both teams that saw UCR take a 25-17 lead into intermission, Santa Barbara chipped away at its deficit and knotted the score at 29-29 with 14:02 remaining. The visitors took their first lead of the period at the 11:36 mark following a brilliant series of events by sophomore guard Jessica Wilson, who made a block on the defensive end and then took the ball coast-to-coast for a driving layup, making the scoreboard read 33-31.
Riverside regrouped an pulled ahead by three points on several occasions, including 44-41 at the 4:04 mark thanks to a pair of Vanessa Campillo free-throws. Both squads stagnated offensively again down the stretch, but UCSB was able to score four unanswered points capped by Ana Onaindia's trifecta from the left corner with 1:13 to play, giving the Gauchos a 45-44 lead.
However the visitors would fail to score again, as Highlander freshman Seryam Gbewonyo answered with an off-balance running layup on her squad's next possession. With less than 30 seconds remaining, Santa Barbara misfired on a three-point try, but freshman Whitney Warren grabbed an offensive rebound and Mark French called timeout to set up a potential game-winning play. The ball found its way to senior forward Autumn Nichols who put up a tough shot over three Highlanders with less than two seconds left. Her shot drew iron, and UCSB was whistled for on over-the-back call, sending UCR's Roney Frend to the charity stripe where she sunk both free-throws. The Gauchos could not get off a potential game-tying shot, and the Highlanders collectively celebrated at mid-court.
For the third straight game, sophomore center Jenna Green was Santa Barbara's leading scorer, tallying a game-best 16 points before fouling out with 3:31 remaining. Wilson was the only other Gaucho in double-figures with 11 points but made just four-of-12 shots. UCSB out-shot Riverside 37.2% to 34.7%, but committed 21 turnovers.
The home team featured a balanced scoring attack led by 10 points apiece from Friend and Gbewonyo. UCR won the battle of the boards 34-32, led by Kemie Nkele's game-high nine boards.
The Gauchos will play their final two regular season games at home next week, beginning with a Thursday, March 2 showdown with Pacific. Tip-off is slated for 7:00 p.m. in the Thunderdome.